National Aquarium Mourns Loss of Its Eldest Dolphin, Nani, at Age 44

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Nani with her daughter, Spirit. Courtesy of National Aquarium.

The 44-year-old matriarch of the National Aquarium’s dolphin colony passed away last night, aquarium officials announced today.

Nani, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, was the oldest of eight of the marine mammals residing at the aquarium’s Dolphin Discovery exhibit. She was born in the wild in 1972, but was later brought into captivity. She was transferred to Baltimore from another aquarium that closed in 1990.

Up until yesterday, Nani was doing just fine in her older years. But an aquarium spokesperson said that on Monday, Nani “began to exhibit unusual behavior.” Members of the aquarium’s animal care team provided emergency care, but Nani didn’t recover; she passed away last night. Staff are working to determine her cause of death.

“We all loved Nani dearly,” said National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli in an emailed statement. “She was very much a member of the National Aquarium family, and we are heartbroken to lose her.”

Bottlenose dolphins generally live to be between 30 and 50 years old, according to NOAA Fisheries.

The aquarium announced last summer that it would move its small dolphin colony to the first planned seaside dolphin sanctuary in North America by 2020. The sanctuary will be in either Florida or the Caribbean, according to a spokesperson.

Nani, which means “beautiful” in Hawaiian, is survived by her son, Beau, and daughter, Spirit, who are both still swimming with their peers in the Pier 4 building in the Inner Harbor.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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